FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Contact: Kevin Flannery, (573) 526-0949
It's Time to Fix the Worst Campaign Finance and Ethics Laws in the Country
A Column by Secretary of State Jason Kander
Missouri has the worst campaign finance and ethics laws in the entire country. The legislature’s dance around this fact has gone on long enough, and Missourians are tired of watching too many of their elected officials pretend as though this situation is beyond their control. This week, I announced one of the most comprehensive campaign finance and ethics reform proposals ever considered in our state.
I want to be clear, this legislation filed on my behalf by Rep. Kevin McManus (D-Kansas City) is not a watered-down compromise – there is plenty in this bill for politicians of all perspectives and affiliations to dislike. But I don’t work for politicians, I work for the citizens of our state, and the nation’s worst ethics and campaign finance laws cannot be repaired by small changes – they can only be repaired by a real solution.
The 57 different changes to Missouri ethics and campaign laws contained in this proposal can be summed up into three important categories.
First, we need effective and enforceable campaign contribution limits. This legislation sets contribution limits for candidates and political parties and bans the laundering of political contributions. This includes, for the first time, a provision making it illegal to take steps meant to get around campaign contribution limits. Those found to have violated these provisions will be subject to substantial financial penalties, and repeat offenders could be sent to prison.
Second, our legislature needs to put some distance between lawmakers and lobbyists. This bill bans all state elected officials from taking anything from a lobbyist. It leaves no loopholes. And no longer will politicians have the option of being legislators on Thursday and lobbyists on Friday – they will have to take a "cooling off" period.
Third, we must empower the ethics commission to vigorously and effectively enforce these new laws. Strict new laws are meaningless without the resources and tools to enforce them, so this bill provides both to the Missouri Ethics Commission.
In the heat of an election year, and under certain circumstances, this bill empowers the Missouri Ethics Commission to take swift action to order substantial fines during the campaign or the removal of a candidate’s name from the ballot. Crime shouldn’t pay and cheaters shouldn’t be allowed to compete.
And finally, under current law, the surest way to escape punishment is to lie to an ethics commission investigator, because there is no law against it. This bill creates the felony of obstructing an ethics investigation.
Campaign finance and ethics reform is not an issue among other issues. Time spent passing this bill will not come at the expense of other important priorities, but it will give us a greater ability to address other issues in the future. This is about the process by which we set our state’s policies and that process is in desperate need of repair. When we improve the policymaking process, we improve the policies themselves.
This debate has gone on long enough. It’s time to get serious. By passing this bill, lawmakers can finally craft a system worthy of the people who sent them to Jefferson City in the first place. Missourians deserve nothing less.
Visit www.sos.mo.gov to learn more about the Office of the Missouri Secretary of State.
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